Sunday, July 10, 2011

Playing with paper . . .

Happy Sunday to all!

It's the start of another week and I have been playing with paper for the past week along with reading some art information books to help me work and develop my own method of making the paper do what I want it to do.  This has led to a few adventures on its own.  Who would have thought that making my own rice glue would be an adventure?  Well, it was!   But, truthfully, I did have a lot of fun making it and so I think this will become a part of my list of things to do twice a month.

Making rice glue is something that I decided to do in order to save a bit of money.  Rice glue will not cause your papers to disintegrate, has a neutral base and by making it on your own, you save money and it adds to your knowledge base as an artist.  It does take some time to prepare, the recipe will vary from batch to batch depending on the rice you use and whether or not it is a humid day.  The basic recipe is one cup of basmati rice or sushi rice mixed with three cups of water.  Mix up this concoction in a pot, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover and allow to bubble gently for about 45 minutes, checking on it frequently.  If you find that the water is being absorbed quickly, you will need to add another cup of water, keep stirring to keep this from sticking to the bottom of the pot and cover.  Keep an eye on the water absorption as I found that this water was also absorbed fairly quickly and I had to add another partial cup of water to the pot.  Basically, you are looking for the rice to absorb the water and lose its granular shape to the point where it looks like a pot of oatmeal or  cream of wheat.  Once you reach this point, it took an hour of cooking for me at a slow simmer.  At this point, you want to allow the contents of the pot to cool until it is safe to handle.

Once cooled, you need to blitz the rice mixture in a blender or with an immersion blender until you have most of the little rice bits broken down.  At this point, I put the mixture through a sieve to remove any granular bits hiding in the mash.  It takes time to get the brew to make its way through the sieve into a bowl.  I found that using the back of a spoon to push the contents down helped speed up the process.  Once you have all the glue through the first sieve, put it through a second one that has a finer mesh.  I will warn you that this does take patience and time, but it is well worth the effort.  Once this has been completed, keep the rice glue in a covered container in the fridge.  I have some plastic bottles that I purchased from an art store with a nozzle lid on them in which I keep the glue.  It makes for easy use and storage of this valuable commodity.  My batch made up about 3 cups of glue which will last me for a couple of weeks.  I suspect if you have a food processor, that blitzing the mixture in that would speed up the process and you might be able to skip putting the mixture through the second sieve.  But, my kitchen is not equipped with such a piece of equipment and I had to go about getting any rice residue out of the glue the old fashioned way.  Even so, I still encounter the occasional bit of rice, but can easily flick it out with a paint knife.

Once you have your glue made, you will need to store it in the refrigerator and bring it out ahead of time to allow it to come to room temperature before using it.  If the glue has become quite thick, just add a bit of water, mix it up and you are ready to proceed with all things artistic.

So, where did I head with my journey this week?  Well, I had purchased a book called Kanzashi in Bloom by Diane Gilleland.  Kanzashi are fabric or paper floral decorations worn in the hair by geisha and their apprentices.  At this time, there are around 15 artisans who still make kanzashi using the traditional methods.  More and more people are taking an interest in this art form and are developing new methods to produce these amazing hair ornaments.  Regardless of the method that you use, it is a labour of love and will take time  to learn how to make the intricate folds and how to put them together to form the various flowers.  In this book, the author uses a thread and needle to sew the petals together rather than use rice glue, which makes the process move ahead a little more quickly.  But, somehow, I feel that I want to stay with the traditional ways and use the rice glue.  I would be extremely sad to have this art form die out from lack of interest and so I am hoping that a few of my readers will try to make a few kanzashi flowers to wear in their hair at a wedding or even to top off a birthday present.  I can even envision a bridal party with all the bridesmaids wearing these hair flowers to complement their gowns.  Word of warning:  this is something you would want to make well ahead of the wedding day due to the amount of time required to make them.  This is not something you want to try to do on the morning of the wedding.  Stress levels would rise quickly and the project would be abandoned quickly.

Omiyage by Kumiko Sudo.  Omiyage is the Japanese word for gift and the book if full of instructions for making little gifts for various occasions.  The author feels that by taking the time to hand sew little decorations that could be used for pin cushions, tiny potpourri holders and so on, that the person making the gift is putting a part of themselves into the gift which makes that gift more meaningful.  I love that thought and am browsing through the book for a challenge that I might be able to put together and feel proud to present to a friend on a day that is not a special occasion.  To me, giving a little something on such days makes the day more special and brings friends closer.  So, I hope to be picking up little scraps of fabric to render into some sweet little gifts.

On top of all this, I have been working on my submission for the September art exhibit using the etchu hagaki paper.  I had hoped that by wetting the paper, that I might be able to separate the layers and hopefully to be able to peel them back, making each layer of paper into a sequence of petals of a flower such as a peony.  I tried to do this with a few segments of a piece of the paper which I had cut into several pieces.  Although I could not separate the layers, I found that I could gently rub my fingers across the paper pulling fibres together and making a line of them across the sample.  I quite like the look of this and think that it will work into the final piece quite nicely.  So, that is something that I will carry forward to the final piece.

Using pieces of small canvas board, I am working on several designs to see how they work out and to gauge the amount of time required to finish an actual piece of this art.  I am researching through various books that I own to find out the look of a cherry tree branch, the flow and movement of a kimono whilst a women is walking through a court yard and other aspects of Japanese life.  The final piece of art will incorporate not just paint, but also a form of collage which I am finding to be very labour intensive, but so worth the effort.  I am totally enthralled with all things Japanese right now.  But, to be honest, I have been captivated by Japanese art all my life.  I am quite aware that my parents thought my love of all things Japanese was quite unusual and they could not understand where this love of art came from.  You have to realize that at that time, living in a small city, one did not encounter much if any of the Asian arts.  Computers were not a part of standard home equipment that allowed a curious student the ability to research and develop their way of creating similar pieces of work.  I spent hours at the local library trying to find an aspect of the art that I might be able to work on at home.  Such was not the case and it was not until many years later when I was bitten by the bug and took the time to research Japanese tea ceremonies, look at the use of flowers in ikebana and devote my spare time to all things with a Japanese theme.

Right now, I am working on making some beads and painting them, trying to make kanzashi flowers to make a few hair decorations as well as broaches to pin to my jackets and then trying to take scraps of paper to make a few little gifts from Omiyage.  It has not been a dull week!  So much to learn and just not enough hours in the day to work on perfecting my art.  I will learn to do these intricate pieces and show them to you when they are completed.  Right now, a sheet of paper toweling is drying before it is turned into paper beads for a necklace.  Another canvas is drying with embroidery floss forming the trunk and branch of a cherry tree that will have cherry blossoms abundantly showing their lovely blooms and perhaps a kimono clad lady walking by shielding her face from the sun with a dainty paper parasol.  So much to think about and to produce.

I am going to be pushing myself non stop this week and hope to make a nice display of jewelry, a few pictures and a journal or two using some of the prettiest Japanese paper for the cover.  All of these will use my stash of rice glue and so I suspect there will be another batch brewed up one evening soon.  This time, knowing how the glue behaves as it is pushed through the sieve, I will be sure to be a little more gentle so that I am not wiping splatters off of the refrigerator, cupboard doors and the ceiling.  I really put myself into my creations, but maybe using just a tad less energy might be prudent and save me a little cleaning time.

I hope your week was equally enjoyable!  Finding time to pursue something that interests you is not a waste of time as some of your family and or friends might suggest.  These moments that you give to yourself are so important in developing a part of the brain that has for far too long been ignored or thought to be of no value. That is so wrong and you do need to encourage that artistic part of you hidden under so many layers of acceptable work related duties.  Find that inner spirit and ask it what it really wants to do.  Listen with your heart to the answer and most importantly allow yourself those moments to dance, sing, paint or do whatever it is that truly makes you happy.  You deserve those moments and by taking advantage of them, you allow yourself to open yourself up to a whole new world where artistic expression is encouraged and appreciated.

I would love to hear where your muse takes you on those moments that you manage to escape the day to day rigors of life.  Drop me a line and I will post all comments as they come in.  You just might be the one to not only encourage, but inspire another reader to take a chance and do something just for the joy of it.  Now, that is a wonderful possibility just waiting there for you.  Go for it!

Sincerely,    Rutheemac

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